3 Things Great DJs Do During Their Sets Besides Mixing

Today I would like to point out 3 things that great DJs do during their sets besides mixing that sets them apart from most other DJs and will make for a more enjoyable experience for your guests as well. I have over 12 years of experience as a DJ and I have DJed everything from huge events for major corporations down to small back yard birthday parties and everything in between. I have learned a lot of lessons from trial and error but I have also learned a lot from going out to see other DJs play. Here are a few skills that I have picked up over the years that may help you out.

1. Read the crowd

This is probably one of the most crucial parts of being a DJ that is not very easy to learn and is often not practiced by beginner DJs. Maybe you’re new to the DJ scene or maybe no one has really explained what “reading the crowd” means. Here’s a few things that may help you better understand what it is and how to do it successfully! One thing you can do is to profile people! Yes, it may seem very superficial and borderline sexist or racist however stereotypes exist and if you are not using every possible tool to your advantage then you are not setting yourself up for success. Look at what people are wearing, what their ethnicity is, if they are young, old, or somewhere in between. Also look at how they are acting. Are they bouncing around having fun or are they reserved sipping their drink?

There are times when the venue/promoter might tell you to expect a certain kind of crows, yet when you show up to a gig the guests are not at all who you thought they were going to be. This is when profiling will help you out. I’ll share some examples. I played a gig where I was told it was going to be a certain kind of crowd (upscale, classy, white collared guests), however I got to the gig and it was a lot of blue collar people wearing jeans, white T’s, and fitted hats. Needless to say, as soon as I saw who I was playing for, I made the adjustment and played to the people that were actually at the venue and not who I was told was going to be there. You may also run across times where the venue wants you to play to younger college crowd but you get there and it’s a bunch of 30 and 40 somethings (I’ve had plenty of those gigs as well). Just feel it out and see what gets people moving. Older people don’t always want to hear the same old nostalgic music too.

Another way to profile your guests is to look at what they are wearing. If you see some guys with Jay-Z T-shirts then maybe slip in a Jay-z track or some sort of remix that sampled his music. If you see a lot of business suits and scantily clad girls in tight dresses then this trick won’t work.

The best thing you can do during your set though, is look for the people that are bobbing their heads, tapping their feet, and swinging their hips. If you don’t see any of these things happening then it’s time to switch the track! Reading the crowd is a skill that you will learn over time after you have played some gigs but make sure you are actively assessing the situation and playing your music accordingly. You will see much better results by doing this!

2. Be a great host

You ARE the life of the party!! You are there to ensure that people have  a good time. The DJ can make or break a party! If you take the approach of being a good host you will definitely have much better experiences with DJing. Talk to people like they are your new best friend when they come by the DJ booth. You never know who you are meeting for the first time. It could potentially lead to more gigs if they like you as a person as well as the music you are playing. I’ve met a lot of people while DJing that have hired me for other gigs or have recommended me to other people simply because I was polite and fun to talk to when they came up to me.

Get on the mic and shout out your friends or other DJs as they walk in the building or when you have a moment in your set to acknowledge them. This is a great way to make people feel like they are welcome and included in the fun. There have been numerous occasions where I have shouted out people and instantly other people start cheering for no apparent reason other than to acknowledge the person or people I was giving a shout out to. This gets other people excited and makes your friend or guest feel even more welcome. I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you are spinning a chill lounge night but giving that head nod as a friend or acquaintance walks in the door goes a long way as well. People like to feel special and walking in to a place where the DJ (i.e.- the center of attention) notices you makes you feel special.

Also learn how to handle requests with grace. When people come up to make requests I like to joke around with them. They will say something like “Can I make a request?” or “Are you taking requests?” My response is usually “I only take good requests!” or I might even say “I don’t do requests until I’ve had at least 3 drinks.” No DJ likes to take requests but a little bit of humor can go a long way when dealing with that situation.

The bottom line is to just “put yourself in their shoes” and think about what it would feel like walking in while you are DJing. Are people going to be excited to come and see you? If they have never heard of you before, will they be excited after having been to where you are spinning? Doing these things and asking these questions will lead to a more successful and rewarding DJ career!

3. Dance

Have fun while you are playing your songs. One of the best ways to show your audience that you are having a good time is to dance to the music you are playing. You don’t have to go crazy with a choreographed dance routine but jumping around, moving your shoulders or hips, throwing your hands up from time to time, or simply bobbing your head and moving around to the music in some form or fashion will let party goers know that you are also enjoying the music that you are playing.

All too many times I have gone to a club or party where the DJ is playing some cool music and is simply standing behind his decks sifting through songs and looking like a stick in the mud. I’ve also attended other parties that I wasn’t a big fan of the music that was playing but because the DJ was really into it, that made me want to get involved and dance around too. There are times where people might not realize its OK to dance around while you are playing music (depending on the situation). What better way to let them know it’s alright to dance then by dancing around yourself!!

Now go have fun!!!

Having fun is why most people want to be a DJ in the first place! If DJing isn’t fun then you are either in the wrong business or you need to re-evaluate how you are going about it. Try any one of these 3 things great DJs do or try all three at your next gig and let me know how it goes! I would love to get your feedback to see what kind of results you have experienced with this!

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May 15, 2014 DJ Tips